Thursday, 5 September 2013

The start of something big!

Around lunch, we finally threw the lines and gently planed out of Longyearfjord. A morning filled with activities was already behind us. The day started out with a guided bus trip around Longyearbyen. This vibrant community is growing fast and counts more than 2000 heads today. For a long time, it was a coal mine, but in recent years it changed to a university town and hub for all kinds of Arctic activities. On board, everybody moved into his and her cabin, got an expedition jacket and took part in the emergency exercise that has to be carried out at the beginning of every ship cruise.

Next stop: Barentsburg, barely a two hours cruise away from Longyearbyen. Even though we did not leave Norwegian territory, we felt like having arrived to Russia. The small town is inhabited by Russian and Ukrainian miners. On a walk along the main road, our Russian guide gave us an introduction to the history of this settlement and told us about the life of miners today. Currently the small town is thoroughly renovated. Many of the living houses, the cultural center and the sports hall are under re-construction. Last year, they even started a small brewery! The local brand is called "Red bear". It is a rather light beer, and very tasty as we convinced ourselves at the local bar. The Russian experience was rounded off by a folklore show, with original Russian songs and dances. We listened to evergreens like "Kalinka" and own compositions like “Welcome to Svalbard. We are from Russia”.

After dinner, everybody moved to the Observation Lounge and was officially greeted welcome on board by the Captain Arild HÃ¥rvik, some of his officers and the expedition team.